Commits federal agencies to prioritize work alongside long-impacted communities to address most pressing environmental challenges
RGISC invitation to attend White House Rose Garden event
WASHINGTON, DC – On Friday afternoon, the eve of the 53rd Earth Day, President Joseph Biden announced the creation of a new Office of Environmental Justice within the White House. The historic executive order includes a sweeping set of measures designed to prioritize impacted communities like Laredo on the South Texas border.
“This is an incredible first start especially for those who have been in the trenches for a long time trying to bring awareness to the fact that pollution impacts not only wildlife and the natural world, but also human lives,” said Tricia Cortez, executive director of the Rio Grande International Study Center who attended the Friday White House announcement at The Rose Garden.
Environmental justice is about recognizing the stories of those who have been harmed by the decisions of others, in many instances for a long time and without their input. It’s about fixing past wrongs, holding polluters accountable, creating trust, and shifting power by empowering those who have been ignored by giving them resources and a seat at the decision-making table, she remarked.
“Biden’s announcement today commits the White House and the federal government in a way that we have never seen before to help places like Laredo and groups like RGISC with our on-the-ground work to build healthy community and new partnerships, and to find innovative solutions to some of our greatest environmental challenges,” Cortez said. “This is significant.”
Attorney Raul E. Garcia, Vice President of Policy and Legislation at Earth justice, a national organization that has filed several lawsuits on behalf of RGISC related to the border wall and ethylene oxide, also weighed in on Biden’s executive order.
“[This] monumentally builds on the vital work to right the wrongs of environmental injustice across this country,” Garcia said, describing it as a deeper “approach to confronting racial barriers to justice, reducing harm from toxic pollution and the cumulative impacts of environmental injustice to frontline communities. This moment stands as a testament to the strength and tireless work of environmental justice communities who have fought a relentless battle to bring civil rights in the environmental space.”
Garcia cautioned, however, that “words on a paper are not enough” saying that the community must now work to focus “to ensure that the measures in this Executive Order have real and concrete impacts on people’s lives.”
Mark Magaña, GreenLatinos Founding President & CEO, described how Laredo and other marginalized communities of color can benefit from this presidential action.
“This new executive order acknowledges the problematic history of this country’s redlining legacy,” Magaña said. “It highlights how communities of color are the least responsible yet the most impacted regarding deadly air pollution, inequitable water access, poor access to public lands, and access to affordable clean energy.”
Cortez joined more than 200 invited guests that included members of Congress, government agency officials, academics and community-based organizations.
For more information, please see the White House fact sheet here for more information about today’s announcements.
Tricia Cortez – firstname.lastname@example.org
Founded in 1994, RGISC is a 501c3 research and advocacy environmental nonprofit based in Laredo, dedicated to protecting and preserving our only source of drinking water, the Rio Grande, and local environment for present lives and future generations. ..
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